Tokyo 2020 delay a formality after World Athletics and COC interventions
By Jonathan Rest
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics look set to be postponed in the next four weeks, after Canada warned it will boycott the games if they go ahead as planned this July and August and World Athletics, track and field's governing body, called for a rescheduling amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
The situation escalated rapidly over the last 24 hours after the International Olympic Committee executive board said it would make a decision in the next month, but reiterating its stance that the Olympics would not be cancelled.
In a bid to preempt that decision, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it was withdrawing from Tokyo 2020, urging the IOC, Intermational Paralympic Committee and World Health Organisation to postpone the games until 2021.
The Australian Olympic Committee said it is "clear" the games cannot go ahead, and told its athletes to prepare for a 2021 games. Its president is John Coates, who heads up the IOC coordination commission for Tokyo 2020.
A number of national Olympic committees have voiced their concerns at the games starting in Tokyo on 24 July as planned, but none have gone as far as the COC in issuing a direct threat.
The COC said: "While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community."
Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, had earlier written to his IOC counterpart Thomas Bach "to request that the games be moved."
It was the first intervention from an Olympic sport, and there could hardly be a bigger one than athletics.
Coe wrote: "No-one wants to see the Olympic Games postponed but as I have said publicly, we cannot hold the event at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety, and a decision on the Olympic Games must become very obvious very quickly.
"I believe that time has come and we owe it to our athletes to give them respite where we can."A delay to 2021 would put pressure on international federations' own world championships, most notably World Athletics and swmming's FINA, whose showpiece competitions are already slated for next year.
USA Track and Field has also called for a postponement, as has Global Athlete, the body that claims to represent the interests of elite sports athletes worldwide.
Speaking in parliament today, Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe admitted for the first time that Tokyo 2020 might have to be delayed.
He said: "If it is difficult to hold [the games] in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable as we think the athletes' safety is paramount."
Like the IOC, he insisted the games would not be cancelled altogether.